Summary: Police casually shooting citizens. Nothing shows the rise of New America as the exercise of the ultimate power, demonstrating there are State agents, the rich & powerful, and the little people. A rash of incidents rubs our faces in this ugly truth. We smile and pass the soma. We can do better.
“Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”
— Mao Zedong’s Little Red Book (1964)
- Introduction to our security services
- A sample of incidents
- For More Information
- Welcome to America
(1) Introduction to our security services
Last year Michael Cohen asked me on Twitter why I talk about a New America (he is a columnist for the Guardian about US politics, and a fellow of the Century Foundation. See his Twitter feed here.) He is one of his generation’s best and brightest, and his reaction is usually typical of pundit opinion. As it was with Snowden, where Cohen joined those mocking him. As it is with his inability to see the large-scale structural change that I call the construction of a New America on the ruins of the old.
This is yet another post documenting an aspect of this evolution (aka a slow revolution; see others at the end). It’s a common story in history. The interesting part of this story is peoples’ unwillingness — then and now — to see from the individual events on the news to the big picture.
It’s not difficult. Look at the transformation of our police from doing law enforcement into security services. SWAT teams bringing military tactics and equipment to routine police work (most frequent task: serving warrants); see details here. DoD arming police with military equipment (see Fox News and Washington Post).
And shooting people. With little reason. It’s becoming an issue as they become more blatant (not just the usual oppression of the poor and minorities) — and as modern tech catches them on film. But as with the revelations about surveillance by the NSA, the real significance of these stories comes from our reaction. Or, as with the NSA news, our lack of reaction.
The creation of the New America follows the death of the America-that-once-was — by neglect and apathy. The machinery of democracy still exists, if only there a free people can be found to work it.
(2) A sampling of incidents
These are just drops in the sea of incidents. They have not dented our confidence in the police. A people who regard these with apathy does not deserve liberty, and probably cannot keep it.
- Eight police and a dog surround mentally ill man holding small knife, six of them fatally shoot him, CNN, 21 September 2012
- Houston police fatally shoot wheelchair-bound double amputee diagnosed with severe mental health problems, Houston Chronicle, 24 September 2012
- “Dallas chief fires officer over shooting of mentally ill man“, Dallas Morning News, 24 December 2013 — Officer Cardan Spencer caught on video.
- “Dallas police chief fires officer in shooting of suspect“, Dallas Morning News, 30 December 2013 — Amy Wilburn caught on video.
- “‘We called for help, and they killed my son,’ North Carolina man says“, CNN, 7 January 2014
- Same incident: “Cop Allegedly Said ‘We Don’t Have Time For This’ Before Shooting Schizophrenic Teen To Death“, Annie-Rose Strasser, ThinkProgress, 7 January 2014
- Professor of Physics has adverse reaction to wine, wife calls 911 for an ambulance, police handcuff him and arrest her, New York Times, 16 January 2014
- “Killed by the Cops“, a joint series by Colorlines and The Chicago Reporter, 4 November 2007
- “Across nation, unsettling acceptance when mentally ill in crisis are killed“, Portland Press Herald, 12 December 2012 — “Even as they face a growing number of disturbed people, police often lack crisis training. And the leadership and data-gathering needed to stem the bloodshed are largely absent.” Every single police shooting ruled justified since 2000.
- “Justifiable Homicides by Law Enforcement Officers: What Is the Role of Mental Illness?“, A Joint Report by the Treatment Advocacy Center and National Sheriffs’ Association, September 213
(4) For More Information
(a) Posts about police in America:
- Fear the enemies within America more than those without, 21 December 2011
- How to Fund an American Police State (aka Weaponizing the Body Politic), 5 March 2012 — Militarizing the police
- We are alone in the defense of the Republic, 5 July 2012
- Do not talk to the police (important advice in New America), 4 August 2013
- Look at the protests in Wisconsin to see how America has changed, 31 August 2013
(b) Posts about our shameful prisons:
- An opportunity to look in the mirror, to more clearly see America, 10 November 2009 — About our prisons
- Being a third world nation is a state of mind, as we will learn (about prison rape), 19 March 2011
- Our prisons are a mirror showing the soul of America. It’s not a pretty picture., 28 March 2011
- Back to the future: convict labor returns to America (a powerful tool to force down wages and crush unions), 23 April 2012
- Convict labor returns to America, part 2 – Lucrative for the employers, expensive for us., 24 April 2012
- Convict labor, part 3 – We cannot plead ignorance. We do know., 25 April 2012
(c) Posts about our broken criminal justice system:
- Nixon declared war on drugs, a major investment of America in itself – but one that’s gone bad, 21 May 2010
- The Feds decide who to lock up for life (not just at Guantanamo), another nail in the Constitution’s coffin, 2 June 2010
- The Collapse of American Criminal Justice System — Excerpts from The Collapse of American Criminal Justice by William J. Stuntz
- More about the collapse of the American Criminal Justice System– Studies and reports about our shameful system.
- Final thoughts about the American Criminal Justice System, 21 September 2011
- Why should we care about the Supreme Court’s ruling allowing strip & cavity searches of prisoners?, 5 April 2012
(5) Welcome to America
See the story at Inside Higher Education.